Usability Testing Automation & The Future of UX Design
“Software is eating the world” – Marc Andreessen.
Large software companies like Amazon, Google, Apple, Facebook and unicorns like Uber, Box, and AirBnB are all heavily invested in their UX Design and their Customer’s Experiences with their sites, apps and other products since it pays dividends. Because of this, great CX is directly associated to financial performance.
Businesses are adapting and profiting
Results show that over the last 10 years design-led companies have maintained significant stock market advantage, outperforming the S&P by an extraordinary 228%. This is, by the way, the absolute best news ever for the UX community since it means great design ROI is actually measurable. Which in turn has led to C-level buy-in and an emergence of UX strategy and design-driven company culture.
Validation and usability testing is now a standard practice within UX design. Part of the design-driven culture includes testing early and often with end users to validate decisions, to avoid risk, and to make design decisions based on data. Until recently, this standardization would have been nearly impossible to achieve as user research, specifically usability and experience testing, was very time consuming and expensive.
Software Testing Automation
According to Wikipedia, in software testing, test automation is the use of special software (separate from the software being tested) to control the execution of tests and the comparison of actual outcomes with predicted outcomes.
It should really come as no surprise that automation would work its way into UX research and usability testing when it’s already happening in many other industries. Here’s just a handful of cases within three industries:
Today, thanks to software, conducting user research and usability testing during the design phase and continuously measuring CX after launch is actually cost-effective and, most importantly, AGILE and easy.
This means that there is a heck of a lot more usability testing being done these days which is great for everyone – businesses and customers. It’s not limited to large firms with huge budget, nor professionals with PhDs. The automation of usability testing is helping companies who were doing some testing in the past do a lot now, and the companies that were doing no testing are now at least doing some testing. Automation equates to doing more with less, being more user-centric, and ultimately creating more profitable businesses.
Like any other automation, this one has made it a lot more accessible to companies to conduct usability testing, a great step towards improving their products’ UX and optimizing conversion ratios. This ‘usability testing automation’ has also enabled companies to scale their research. Testing is now embedded in the design process in order to test early, and test often – the right way to approach usability testing.
Automation and the Future of UX Design and Usability Research
As a result, UXers have been awfully busy in recent years. The demand for UX Professionals has skyrocketed in the past 5 years. These profiles are tasked with managing UX and part of it is conducting user testing while they’re in the prototype stage. If they had to manage research projects using traditional, labor intensive methodologies (like using a usability Lab, for instance), they would all be going crazy! The big question, then, is how can they cope with this high demand for testing needs?
Software is already helping to automate the process of usability testing and UX research by removing some of the more tedious parts. For example, some of you might remember that back in the day in usability labs we were recording videos, taking notes, performing data crunching and analysis, and then aggregating all of that manually. People (often relatively expensive consultants) were doing the vast majority of the work (let’s estimate 80%), while using some sort of software tool to help them along the way.
Thankfully, those days are long gone.
Thanks to user testing software and the automation it can bring, we’re seeing that a tool can do a large chunk of the work that goes into usability studies and UX research (by covering most of the tedious time consuming tasks, such as data collection, video recording, behavior tracking, automatic reporting, data sharing, etc.), while humans will focus on the most important tasks (study design and converting data into actionable insights and solutions).
Among many others, software helps in the following critical areas:
Building great UX is a most definitely a collaborative process. So conducting usability testing, which is a huge part of the design process, should also be collaborative. Software helps UX Pros design and build a study in a joint effort with other stakeholders, then preview before launch. This way the study goals are aligned.
2. Tagging important moments
Tomer Sharon calls them ‘nuggets’ in his article ‘The Atomic Unit of a Research Insight’. He says: “Imagine 1,000 such nuggets. Properly tagged, well defined, easily searched and found. Beats any report.”
3. Analyzing data
One great thing about usability testing software is that it can automatically and effortlessly gather a lot of data (such as success rates, behavior data like heatmaps, etc). However, no one needs more data, but rather useful insights. In order to come up with these, analytics dashboards and reporting capabilities offered by software tools are extremely valuable and reduce the time and effort needed.
4. Sharing results
Last but not least, there’s great value in having the ability to quickly share those insights. Here’s where once again having a cloud based platform that hosts all the data in a secure way becomes extremely important, especially for the Enterprise.
In summation, like software has done in many other industries, usability testing automation is transforming the way companies conduct research and optimize UX. It allows companies to be cost-effective and fast, a critical requirement in the AGILE world we live in.
Originally from Madrid, Spain, Alfonso has 17 years of experience in User Experience, Digital Marketing, Ecommerce, Web Design, Web Project Management, User-Centered Design and Usability Testing.
Before founding UserZoom, he worked for companies such as Dell Computers, Icon Medialab (now LBi / Digitas), and Proxicom’s venture in Spain (now Indra). He’s a frequent speaker at UX conferences, has taught usability courses at various universities, and collaborates with the Stanford University Technology Ventures Program.